A workers’ compensation rule known as the “horseplay doctrine” allowed Virginia’s highest court to rule that a worker injured while lifting his arm to block ice thrown by a co-worker can receive workers comp benefits. The claimant worked at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant when co-workers began throwing ice at him. He lifted his left arm to block the ice and dislocated his shoulder.
A deputy workers’ compensation commissioner originally awarded the man a four-day temporary total disability benefit. The commissioner subsequently found that surgery and additional benefits was not work related. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission. The commission ruled against the worker and he went to the Court of Appeals, which ruled his injury was not work-related.
The Court of Appeals cited a state supreme court case where an emergency medical services worker died after a co-worker intentionally touched her with a charged cardiac defibrillator. The court said the injury did not arise from employment.
However, the Virginia Supreme court saw it differently in ruling in favor of the restaurant worker. It said the cardiac defibrillator incident was an assault, and that throwing ice at a co-worker was more playful in nature. As a result, the worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
In some case, workers compensation benefits are the only way to help injured workers recover. Contact a Northern Virginia personal injury lawyer if you suffer an injury while working. Julie Heiden is a Northern Virginia personal injury attorney at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis and she can help you with your workers’ comp claim.